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Craig Raymond and the Next Generation Big Band: Let's Dance Band Stand

Jack Bowers By

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When big bands were king, the impetus behind their success was as much about dancing as it was listening. People thronged to see and hear bands led by Miller, Goodman, the Dorsey brothers, Harry James, Charlie Barnet, Artie Shaw, Chick Webb, Andy Kirk and their peers but listened for the most part while dancing cheek-to-cheek with someone near and dear to them. The most popular songs were those that best adapted to that delightful manner of exercise.

Trumpeter Craig Raymond, who missed the Big Band Era but has learned about it from his father, bandleader Al, is wise to that, and has designed his Next Generation Big Band so that even when the band is cooking and the ad-libs flowing freely, the beat goes on and one can envision himself (or herself) floating gracefully across the floor, much like Fred and Ginger, in the arms of a handsome and pliant partner. And lest anyone should misread the message, the name of the band's second album for Alanna Records, Let's Dance Band Stand, is a dead giveaway.

In the good old days, every crowd-pleasing ensemble had a charismatic singer, and Raymond has not one but three—Pam Orlando ("Moonlight in Vermont,"? "As Long as He Needs Me"?), Barbara Noel ("Skylark"?) and Margie Gibbons (a three-part Salute to Girl Vocalists that includes "I've Heard That Song Before,"? "I'll Be Seeing You"? and "I'm Beginning to See the Light"?). Raymond also welcomes a pair of celebrated guest artists, 81-year-old clarinet master Buddy DeFranco ("Skyliner,"? "I Remember Clifford,"? "Don't Be That Way,"? Henry Mancini's "Mr. Lucky"?) and veteran saxophonist Larry McKenna ("Don't Be That Way,"? "Tenderly,"? "I Wanna Be Loved"?).

The album opens and closes with lively originals by Grant Whisler ("Swingsville,"? "Drum Fire,"? the last featuring Tony Vigilante) and includes, besides the songs already mentioned, "Somewhere in the Night"? (the theme from the '50s television series Naked City ) and Neal Hefti's "Cute."? As an aside, whoever assigned the credit to Lionel Bart's "As Long as He Needs Me"? must have pulled it out of a hat; it isn't even close, though Marc Blitzstein and Berthold Brecht may have been pleased to learn about their inclusion, were they still alive.

Even though the sound quality is variable, with a number of songs—especially Whisler's pair, the "Girl Vocalists" medley, "Skyliner"? and "Cute"—seeming to belong to some other album, this is a generally respectable dance/swing date with some jazz thrown in to keep the band awake. If you feel the urge to dance—or groove to DeFranco and McKenna—by all means check it out.


Track Listing: Swingsville; Moonlight in Vermont; Somewhere in the Night; Skyliner; I Remember Clifford; Don

Personnel: Craig Raymond, leader, trumpet; Don Downs, Kevin Rodgers, Bill Posey, Tony DeSantis, Rick Gazda, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jeff Darrohn, Andrew Neu, alto sax; Rob Haffley, Bob Apgar, tenor sax; Mike Brignola, baritone sax; Chuck Dressler, Brian Pastor, Mike Galan, trombone; Mike Purdy, Jose Vidal, bass trombone; Pete Jackson, piano; Kevin MacConnell, bass; Tony Vigilante, drums; Barbara Noel (5), Pam Orlando (2, 8), Margie Gibbons (11), vocals. Special guests ?" Buddy DeFranco (4, 6, 7, 12), clarinet, arranger; Larry McKenna (7, 9. 13), tenor sax, arranger.

Title: Let's Dance Band Stand | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Alanna

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